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HBO Westworld and MMORPGS

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Joined: 22 Apr 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 4:17 am    Post subject: HBO Westworld and MMORPGS Reply with quote

*SPOILERS ALERT - do not read if you do not want potential HBO Westworld or SWTOR MMO spoilers*

I have become a big fan of the new HBO miniseries Westworld. As I watched, I could not but help be struck by the comparison between Westworld and MMORPG worlds in certain respects.

Although NPC artificial intelligence in MMOs is comparatively very limited (and in some games nearly non-existent), at the broadest level the NPC of MMORPGs are like the Westworld hosts. They are there for the use and pleasure of the human players (the "newcomers" in Westworld). And frequently, this means the NPC are subjected to constant abuse and violence.

Generally, this doesn't faze anyone. The NPC are often villains or monsters, evil to the root, and will usually attack players on sight - making most violence a question of self-defense or well-justified in preventing some other evil outcome.

But once in a while, you go into a gray area. I am thinking of the Sith Warrior companion, Vette, in SWTOR, but there can be other examples I am sure. In SWTOR, the player could use Vette's shock collar to "shock" her and for some players it became a sadistic game as they shocked Vette thousands of times. Since Vette was a companion in the game, her backstory and character were more fully developed. So there was a reaction to all the torturing of an NPC, with some arguing it made a statement on the role of women in society, etc. Others dismissed such concerns, since Vette of course was not a real person, but computer code.

Westworld takes this grey area up several levels. The hosts, or NPC, are so advanced in their code as to appear near-indistinguishable from real humans. Taking aside the question of consciousness or autonomy, the series explores the related issue of whether the quality of the hosts impersonation of a real person actually engages concerns over the brutal behavior they are subjected to. In other words, if they appear real, isn't the violence inflicted on them by the visitors, to the visitors at least, impacting their psyches as it would if they were harming a real person? With one of the main characters, the Man In Black, it is implied that this ability to commit mayhem helps him "find his true self" as (apparently) an aggressive jerk. The question hanging out there is whether this path was inevitable.

I am curious about this question - how are we affected by MMORPG violence as technology improves to the point where the gap between real and simulated narrows? I never played GTA, but I know the question has also arisen there in terms of the mass slaughter of real-seeming innocents. I know we are not anywhere near having NPC with consciousness, but as Westworld postulates, if it gets to the point where the NPC seem real, what would be the difference?

Cemya & Cembrye - SWTOR
Gobblemoss - Landroval Server, LOTRO
Formerly Cemya and Ehliya, Shadowbane4Lyfe!
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